Starting the downtown turnaround

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Interstate 65 has been good to Greenville, bringing out-of-town tax dollars which help fund city services like the police, fire department, roads, parks and recreation and water works. It has provided a vital artery of steady traffic, whether its travelers stopping in for a fast meal, golfers taking advantage of the hotels and beautiful Cambrian Ridge Golf Course, or shoppers patronizing the Wal-Mart SuperCenter and Edge Movie Theatre. The influx of sales tax from I-65 has allowed Greenville to enjoy steady growth in its last decade.

However, there has been a cost: Commerce St. has been drained of its commerce in the downtown area. Numerous buildings have been vacated and are in need of extensive renovation. Multiple businesses have dried up and closed. Downtown Greenville has become but a shell of its former self.

It’s way past time to do something about it, but city officials are turning their attention to downtown. On Monday night, Mayor Dexter McLendon presented a unique initiative designed to lure businesses into the heart of Greenville. The city would grant businesses choosing to locate downtown a four-cent sales tax break for a period of three years. A should property owners choose to invest in their buildings, by renovation and remodeling, they would also receive sales tax refunds from any materials purchased inside city limits. (See story on Page 1A for details.) McLendon reiterated this is just an initial plan and said he is open any thoughts, comments and ideas from the general public. The city plans to contact both business owners and property owners in downtown and work to schedule a larger meeting in May where concerns can be addressed.

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Monday’s meeting was an excellent first step in solving the “Downtown” problem. But it’s clear that much work is still ahead for the city, the Chamber of Commerce, Greenville Main Street, as well as business and property owners, especially if downtown is going to become the vibrant, heavily trafficked, thriving center of our city that it once was, and could be again.

But addressing the problem is going to take teamwork and the ability to work together, by all parties involved. Our hopes is that, one day, we can look back with a sense of pride and say, “We were there when we turned around Downtown.”